Monday, July 27, 2015

The Problem with Rules-Based Religion

Jesus never called us to be good people. When we attempt to live a life good enough to be worthy of the calling of Jesus (or, more detrimental, when we attempt to be good enough to earn our salvation) we are like the rich young man who was so close, but missed eternal life because he thought it depended on his actions.

We are also telling Jesus that He is not enough. His living a perfect life is not enough. His sacrificial death on the cross taking the full punishment for our sins is not enough. His resurrection revealing the power and glory of God is not enough. His free offering of grace, mercy, and forgiveness is not enough. His fulfilled promise of indwelling us with the very Spirit of the Lord, Creator, and Sustainer of the universe is not enough.

It sounds good to say that we are good. That we follow the rules. However, this causes some major problems (other than the main problem of essentially slapping Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection in the face).

One of those problems is rebellion. Remember, some people embrace rules. Others fight them with every ounce of energy they have. They rebel, run, and live reckless lives because rules are not enough. The church trying to be perceived as good and reigning down judgment on those perceived as bad have kept many, many people away from the kingdom.

Another problem that’s created is an atmosphere of “how much can I get away with.” When rules are clear and people believe they just have to follow the rules, there are going to be many who want to know how far they can go and still stay within the technicalities of the rule. They will push boundaries and limits just far enough to still be “good.” This mentality is dangerous because if something isn’t found on the list of rules, it must be okay. Or it’ll be okay until someone decides otherwise and I’ll still be “good” because I didn’t break a “rule.”

I’m reminded of when a certain artificial sweetener was released. This is the mentality I had. It was a great replacement for those other artificial sweeteners that studies had shown could have adverse effects. I’d use it until they found something wrong with it. And they eventually did. I’ll never know how much damage I did to my body by ingesting that substance for a period of years in ignorance.

A rules oriented way of thinking lead to the same problem. We will still be looking out for our own interests and changing our actions only, not our hearts.

So, if God’s desire isn’t for us to be good, as we’ve seen in scripture and other examples, then what does He want from us?

The answer is much, much more difficult than a black and white list of do’s and don’t.

What God wants is for us to be totally and completely surrender our very life and every aspect of it.


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